MIFTAH Ismail
MIFTAH Ismail

KARACHI: Former fina­nce minister Miftah Ismail on Monday termed Pakistan a “one-per cent republic” that offers no upward social mobility to an overwhelming majority of its citizens.

Speaking at an awards ceremony organised by the Management Association of Pakistan (MAP), he said there’s “something very wrong” with Pakistan.

“The 1pc elite controls this country,” said Mr Ismail who was a placeholder at the finance ministry for six months until Ishaq Dar’s recent return from exile.

Citing the example of US billionaires Bill Gates and St­­eve Jobs who came from not­hing and yet built a fortune by dint of their talent, he lamented that almost all rich Pakistanis are beneficiaries of generational wealth.

The extempore speech of Mr Ismail that lasted more than half an hour was mostly a repeat of the talks he recently delivered at the Institute of Business Adminis­tra­tion and the CFA Society. The only thing different from his last speech was perhaps that he steered clear of commenting on the petroleum development levy — something that elicited a harsh response from not only the PTI but also Mr Dar.

Mr Ismail didn’t take questions from the press and left after handing out awards and trophies to dozens of corporate entities that he’d laid into minutes ago for rent-seeking and enjoying state-sanctioned protection from competition.

“(The last government) distributed Rs580 billion among the richest 1pc Pakis­tanis under the Temporary Econo­mic Refinance Faci­li­­ty. The government itself is borrowing at 15pc but the rich people got money at 1pc only,” he said. The liquidity injection increased imports of machinery and widened the current account deficit be­­­cause local business groups produced goods for domestic consumption only, he said.

Without naming names, he said a conglomerate req­uested his support for setting up a 500,000-tonne factory of polypropylene while he was finance minister. They dema­nded a 20pc duty protection for 20 years because, in Mr Ismail’s words, the corporation couldn’t compete agai­nst its Chinese counterparts.

He also criticised the auto sector for its inward-looking approach that’s been draining foreign exchange on imports for decades without generating any dollar earnings through exports. He mocked the auto sector for finally exporting “carpets” used in vehicles to Egypt upon his insistence.

Auto and chemical companies were among the recipients of the MAP awards.

Published in Dawn, October 4th, 2022

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